Sts Peter and Paul, Apostles – 29 June
Jewish Talmudic student. Pharisee. Tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of Saint Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. Knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and fathers of the Church. Martyr.
I assure you, brothers, the gospel I proclaimed to you is no mere human invention. I did not receive it from any man, not was I schooled in it. It came by revelation from Jesus Christ. You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes in persecuting the Church of God, and tried to destroy it. But the time came when he who had set me apart before I was born and called me by his favour chose to reveal his Son to me, that I might spread among the Gentiles the good tidings concerning him. Immediately, without seeking human advisers or even going to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off to Arabia; later I returned to Damascus. Three years after that I went up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, with whom I stayed fifteen days. I did not meet any other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. The communities of Christ in Judea had no idea what I looked like; they had only heard that “he who was formerly persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy,” and they gave glory to God on my account. – from a letter from Saint Paul the Apostle to the Christians in Galatia
Professional fisherman. Brother of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Apostle. Renamed “Peter” (rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. Bishop. First Pope. Miracle worker.
Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the of all nations and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the church. Though there are in God’s people many bishops and many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing in his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them. Jesus said: “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith. Blessed Peter is therefore told: “To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.” – from a sermon by Pope Saint Leo the Great